"Confidence comes from planning and practicing well. You get ready during the week and the confidence will be there on Sunday. This confidence is a difficult thing to explain. Butyou do get it if you have prepared." Coach Lombardi
In trying to figure out my plan of preparation for the year leading up to IMFL, I decided to do an early season Half Ironman triathlon to test my nutrition and fitness level. The triathlon I decided to do was the Lonestar 70.3 in Galveston. I started training for this back in December. It turns out I think I made a good decision.
I went down early for this race so that I could get in a practice swim in open water and get a practice swim in with my new wetsuit. I had tried to do an open water swim with the wetsuit here one weekend but the water was so cold that my feet went numb the moment they hit the water. I really wanted to get in an open water swim in the wetsuit before race day. Friday morning I got checked in for the race and then Friday afternoon I met a bunch of folks I've only known from the online triathlete forum I frequent. We met at a small private lake in Houston. There were probably about 15 people there. Some were preparing for the sprint or Olympic race on Saturday, but most were preparing for the HIM on Sunday like me. I probably swam about .5 mile total and felt the wetsuit fit well and I was comfortable with the open water. After the swim, a few of us went to eat lunch together before heading back to Galveston.
Saturday morning I got up early and headed to the race site. I knew a few people racing today and wanted to support and cheer them on. It was a little chilly and fairly windy, but nothing compared to the 75 mph winds that had blown through around 1:00 a.m. But that all changed right before the swim was scheduled to start. About 6:40, the winds picked up to about 40mph and the once somewhat calm water in the bay was now covered in white caps. The race director announced a 15 minute delay in the start. Not long after that, the announcement came that the swim was being cancelled and the race would basically be a duathlon with cyclists leaving every 3 seconds from transition. This was a big disappointment, but you cannot control the weather. Most people did the bike and run but there were also a lot that did not. Cycling is not fun in 25mph winds, so I don't blame those who chose not to continue the race.
Saturday afternoon I met some more "online" friends for a nice lunch. Then I took my bike to the race to get it checked in and racked and then spent the afternoon laying out my race gear and packing my transition bag. After my normal pasta dinner it was an early bedtime.
Sunday morning the alarm went off at 3:30am. I don't like to feel rushed on race morning and I wanted to be at the race site when transition opened at 5:00am. I got up, got on my race clothes, ate my oatmeal, prepared my strawberry/banana shake, prepared my race nutrition, checked my bag one last time and headed to the race. After getting body marked, I headed to my bike to get my transition area set up.
The weather this morning was much nicer than yesterday. It was a little bit chilly, but with somewhat calm winds for being right on the ocean. The race was scheduled to start at 7:00am with the pro men going off. My wave was the last swim wave of the day, scheduled to go off at 8:15. I knew that I would have a long wait, so after double and triple checking my transition site, I grabbed some extra nutrition along with my wetsuit and headed to the swim start.
At the swim start I found several other Team in Training buddies and chatted with them for a while. I was getting cold so I went ahead and put my wetsuit on and then ate my Lara Bar and drank my Gatorade. One by one my buddies left to get in their swim waves. I was pretty bummed about starting in the last swim wave mentally and it only got worse as the beach got less and less crowded as wave after wave started the race. The only good thing about being in the last wave was that I figured I had a good shot at watching the pros coming back in on their bikes as I was heading out (more on that later).
Finally, it was our time to head down the pier and jump in the bay for our deep water swim start. I was the first one in the water. I don't like jumping in cold water, but when I hit the water, I realized it really wasn't all that cold. I swam right up to the front of the buoys and waited until they said it was time to go. As soon as we started swimming I was immediately passed by lots of women in my wave. Again, this was mentally challenging knowing that I might be one of the last swimmers out of the water. I tried not to think about it and just swim my swim.
The waves were a little stronger than they looked from the shore and it made breathing on the left side a little challenging at times as a wave would hit right as you were taking a breath. Luckily for me, I can breathe on either side. About the third buoy, I passed a yellow swim cap which was the color of the wave in front of me. They had started 5 minutes ahead of us, so I knew that I wouldn't be the last one out of the water. Mentally this was good.
As I rounded the buoy to head across the bay, swimming became tougher. The wind and the waves were now coming straight at my head, making forward progress tough. And because I was so far back, there was no one to draft off of. I did pass a couple more yellow caps and even a couple of red caps from an even earlier wave, but I still new I was near the back. I didn't want to over exert myself though and not have a good bike or run, so I just kept swimming at my slow pace.
Finally I turned at the buoy to head toward shore. It seemed like it had taken forever. They had told us to swim all the way to the ramp before standing up so that our feet would not get cut by standing on the live oyster bed, so that's what I did. I would have liked to stand up sooner, but didn't want to risk cutting my feet.
As I got out of the water I started taking off the wetsuit. Wetsuit strippers were provided at this race and since they will also be at IMFL I decided to take advantage and use them. I got my arms out of the sleeves and got the suit down a little past my hips. As I approached the strippers, I laid down on the ground and stuck my feet in the air. They grabbed my suit, counted to three and yanked it off. It was actually a very quick process. It was only at that point that I looked at my watch and I did not like what I saw. I saw 52:XX on my watch. I had started it a minute before my wave start and I wasn't exactly sure where the swim stopped and T1 started, but I had been hoping for around 45 minutes for the swim.
Official Swim Time: 50:19 (2:38/100m pace)
Even though I didn't like the time, I kept jogging to my bike. I threw the wetsuit down, put on my bike shoes, gloves, sunglasses, and helmet, grabbed my bike and ran out of transition.
Official T1 Time: 3:20
Once I got to the mount line, I got on my bike and took off. The roads leading from transition through Moody Gardens and out to the Seawall were a little rough, so I had told myself to take it easy until I got to the Seawall. As soon as I turned on Seawall, I found a gear I liked and kept a steady pace. I passed several people and got passed by a few. Again, it was mentally challenging knowing that I was at the back of the pack just because of being in the last swim wave.
And just as I previously thought, I did see the pros come back in on the bike. That was pretty cool as there were some big name pros at this race. Of course, looking at them across the road, I had no idea who was who, but it was still pretty neat.
I had driven the bike course on Friday so I knew what to expect. The course was mostly flat. The road on the way out had recently been repaved, so it was nice and smooth. there was on spot at about mile 22 just before heading over the San Luis pass that got a little rough and the 6 miles from the pass to the turnaround were not all that great, but overall it was a good course.
Heading out on the smooth road was nice, but there was a crosswind/slight headwind. I didn't want to hammer too hard and ruin my legs for the run, so I stayed pretty conservative, but managed to get in decent speeds. I kept looking for my friends that were racing to see if I could see them heading back in. I passed one friend on the way out. And somewhere around the pass I saw another one heading back in. Shortly after that I saw the other one. They were maybe 15-20 miles ahead of me so I figured roughly an hour.
Finally, I hit the turnaround spot. The wind was now a crosswind/slight tailwind and I noticed my speed increase with little more effort. All along, I was sipping my Infinit. And I was successful in changing out the bottle to my rear hydration when I finished the first one. I was feeling good and as I got closer and closer to the end I passed more and more people. I think they had gone out too hard to begin with and had nothing left in the tank. It felt so good to make the final turn off of Seawall and head back to Moody Gardens - until the hard headwind slowed me down. I'm just gratefull we didn't have that for a large portion of the bike.
As I got to the dismount line, I stopped, unclipped and took off running back to my spot. My legs were not happy but I made them keep moving.
Official Bike Time: 3:22:06 for a 16.63 mph average.
The first 28 mile split was 1:43:31 for a 16.23 mph average
The second 28 mile split was 1:38:35 for a 17.04 mph average
Once I got back to my spot, I racked my bike, took off my helmet, gloves and shoes and put on my running shoes. I was out of there.
Official T2: 2:09
My legs were still getting that running feel to them but it felt good to know I was on the last leg of the race. The run was a four loop course, so I told myself to take it one loop at a time. As I ran past the first aid station, I grabbed some Gatorade. I decided I would alternate between Gatorade and water. I watched for the mile markers since I was unfamiliar with the run course. I knew each loop would be a little over 3 miles. There were also a lot of out and back parts of the run course so I kept an eye open for my friends. Surprisingly enough, I saw them all on the run course at some point or another.
As I passed each mile marker I glanced at my watch to gage my splits and make sure I wasn't going to fast. I was getting in around 9 minute miles at first. My goal was to try to run the whole thing and I felt ok with 9-10 minute miles. Because the day was heating up and the sun was bearing down, I grabbed something at every aid station. And when cold sponges were offered, you can bet I took them. I got through lap 2 without walking at all, but starting on lap 3 I allowed myself to walk through the aid stations as I grabbed a drink. This seemed to be a good thing as I felt like I was stronger on the runs in between aid stations. And it finally felt good to be in the mix with and passing men. I had no idea what lap most of them were on, but I finally felt like I wasn't at the very back. The only bad thing was that at this point I could feel a blister on my second toe on my left foot. I ignored it and hoped it wouldn't bother me by the end.
As I was finishing my third lap I came upon one of my TNT buddies finishing his fourth lap. I wished him well and continued on. And when I hit the fourth lap still able to run strong between aid stations, I was happy. I knew at this point I would get a PR (personal record for those who don't know), I just didn't know by how much. As I crossed the finished and looked at my watch I was happy.
Official Run Time: 2:13:08 for a 10:09 mile averageLap 1: 30:49 (9:24mm)
Lap 2: 33:36 (10:15mm)
Lap 3: 34:17 (10:28mm)
Lap 4: 34:26 (10:30mm)
I was fairly consistant each lap and was only about 16 minutes off my stand alone PR for a half marathon. And I don't normally run well in the heat.
Official Finish Time: 6:31:02
Yes, this is a new PR. By about 25 minutes. Even though I was disappointed with the swim, I was happy with how the day turned out. It seems my nutrition and pacing on the bike was right on to allow me to have a strong run. And despite the mental challenges of starting in the last wave and being at the back for so long, I didn't let it get the best of me. I learned some things that work for me and I learned some things I need to work on. I have a little over 6 months before IMFL, so I have plenty of time. Planning and practicing will definitely pay off.